Are Private Equity Pros Out of Favor at Harvard Business School?

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Word comes that the stories of Harvard Business School limiting its acceptance of the top private equity professionals may be true. Once the darlings of HBS, Harvard's new dean, Nitin Nohria, has gone on record to say the school's student body should be a diverse one - drawing in folks from all sectors of business.

The PE backlash may have begun last year, after the meltdown in the industry. Today, some reports place the acceptance of PE folks in the 2010 class at below 50 percent.

For those who want to get into Harvard, even the best and brightest must differentiate themselves, says Chioma Isiadinso, a former HBS admissions board member and author of The Best Business Schools' Admissions Secrets: A Former Harvard Business School Admissions Board Member Reveals the Insider Keys to Getting In.

Know What You Want

What's a seasoned, educated and sharp private equity person to do? Isiadinso reminds us that the admissions process is always going to be highly selective. She notes that schools like Harvard have a slew of 4.0 averages and seasoned professionals knocking on the door. "It should be about personal branding. You might be a smart PE pro - someone who's worked on great deals. But you need to go a bit deeper to distinguish yourself. Ask what are your aspirations?"

The changing tide's been a slow moving one. "There's more of a conscious movement to embrace leadership across all sectors, including the non-profit world," observes Isiadinso. In 1992, HBS started the Non-Profit/Public Interest Loan Assistance Program, a program for those entering the less lucrative non-profit world. "The school wants to develop leaders who will change the world in all sectors. There are resources now at place to incentivize to make leap."

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